Hey Rocco, how long does it take to get to the moon? What is space junk made of? What kind of train is the fastest in the world? How do you put out a forest fire? Can we take a ferry to Chelan? Are neon lights vegetarian?
I ask you these questions because you know the answer to all of them. They are questions you have asked and then intently listened to the answers on, read books about, watched videos about, then told everyone you know about.
Someone once told me, “Every kid is a genius until they enter kindergarten.” Kindergarten starts for you in a few days and I don’t care what someone once told me or what anyone might tell me this next year—I know beyond a doubt that you really are a genius. You better be, or I would like back all the hundreds of hours I have spent trying to answer your questions for you, HA.
On your birthday this conversation happened:
Great Uncle: What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Just as I had almost convinced Vincenzo that the egg actually came first (planning on convincing him otherwise once he agreed to that), Rocco, who I’d like to remind you turned SIX that day, piped up.
Rocco: Well really it’s a big circle. A chicken lays an egg and then that chicken dies sometime but the egg hatches into a new chick, and then that chick grows up to a chicken that lays eggs. It just keeps going.
Me: But wait—how did the first chicken get there to lay an egg?
Rocco: It exolbs!
Rocco: It exolbs—like, another animal changed and then changed and then changed again and eventually it was a chicken.
Me: You mean evolution?
Rocco: Yeah, evolution.
Me: So you’re telling me that something like an armadillo changed into a chicken?
Rocco: Yes, [smiling] only probably not an armadillo.
Now I’d like to hear that one guy tell me again that you are not a genius.*
Generous Rocco, you are always ready to give some or all of what you have to a friend or an older brother. Not to your younger brother, but frankly and though I’ll never say it out loud, I completely understand. Leo loves to piss you off, and all it takes is one pinky finger poke to get you screaming. I say a hundred times a day, “Just ignore,” but you seems physically incapable of ignoring. Poke. SCREAM. Poke. LOUDER SCREAM. Poke. LOUDER LONGER THIS-IS-FOR-YOUR-EARS-MOM SCREAM.
So I don’t exactly blame you when you hold up a piece of candy from your private stash and ask, “Who would like one of these?” and then when Leo says, “Me!” you suddenly remembers very clearly how to ignore.
Still, Rocco, you are kind, you are giving, you are playful. You’ll spend ten minutes building a tower that some kid will come knock over and you just quietly pick up a block and start building it all over again.** Then you’ll gently push the tower over to your friend and ask, “Would you like to crash it?” Of course, your friend would, and you laugh as you watch your tower fall and your friend’s face fill with the happiness that you put there.
Rocco, Rocco Taco. I have purposely not taught you to read or write since we kept you out of kindergarten until you turned 6. I wanted kindergarten to have something big to offer you. But, Rocco, you have gone and taught yourself to read and write over this past year, despite me. At dinner you say, “Please pass the C-H-K-N,” and, “After dinner can we play V-I-D-E-G-A-M-S?” You are so confident your spelling is correct, yet you are undaunted whenever you want to know if you’ve spelled something correctly and I tell you “no.” Like a true scientist, you are not afraid of making mistakes; you just look at mistakes as opportunities to learn. That, I know, is something I never taught you because it is something I have not learned myself. (Reference: last week’s apology post.)
You know how to laugh at yourself. You are not afraid of making mistakes. You are hungrier for knowledge even then you are hungry for another helping of macaroni and cheese. If I tell you I can’t fix your train, we’ll just have to wait for Daddy, you get a screwdriver and do it yourself. You are positive you can read Japanese. When you get hurt, you cry a bit but you don’t want to be crying, and so you find something funny instead until you start laughing. When someone else gets hurt you ask, “Want me to beat myself up?” You jump at the opportunity to make others feel better, to offer candy to your friends, money to the homeless, a hug and kiss to your mom when she says she’s having a bad day. You have a fix for everything, Rocco.
You have some things to work on, too. Your voice is always cranked up to 11. You cheat in Battleship. Sometimes the Ramona Quimby books are too scary for you and you have to cover your ears. When you think I am not listening, you are not quite as sweet and cooperative with Vincenzo as you’d like me to think you are. You can really dig your heels in and when you do the rest of us might as well all go home. Your persistence and your confidence can sometimes get in your way.
My wish for you, Rocco, is that you never come across a problem too big for you to fix. That you never feel you know everything you need to know. That you always throw your whole heart in, as you always have, and that you find yourself always surrounded by people who are ready to receive your heart and all the wonderful, beautiful mind-numbing questions that it brings with it.
On one hand, I can’t believe you are six. On the other, it never really seems like you were a baby. You were always ready to be more, to know more, to do more, and more importantly to do it yourself, and you are still exactly the same today.
I love you, Rocket Man, and I am so proud of you. Keep reaching as far as you can, because if anyone can reach beyond the edges of our universe, it’s G-U-N-A, gonna be you.
*I hope you all feel the same way about your children, too—I don’t mean to sound pretentious, only to show how we all believe our children are geniuses, and we are all correct.
**As long as that kid isn’t Leo